The spirit of cooperation 

We have a long tradition of interregional cooperation. In its various forms, it’s an activity that’s been done for decades, and the direction has always been the same: to support the vitality of the whole region and the growth of its businesses. 

One of NIHAK’s long-term partners is Raahen seudun kehitys, which works to develop the Raahe region. Even now, regional organizations have joint projects in progress and in the planning stage. A current example is Oulu South Goes Global, which aims to launch active international Invest In activities in the southern sub-regions of Northern Ostrobothnia.  

-In the project, we are working together to increase the attractiveness and visibility of the area in the eyes of companies and investors. International recognition in particular requires a broader base than an individual municipality or subregion, asserts Raahen Seudun Kehitys director Pasi Pitkänen

Pitkänen describes the cooperation with NIHAK as uncomplicated and practical. The parties are in contact regularly and projects and contributions are prepared together. Our work intersects on a weekly basis. 

–Similarly, there’s excellent cooperation between the sub-regions and towns of the whole southern region of Northern Ostrobothnia, and we also meet with representatives of the business community on a regular basis. There is a good sense of community in this area. 

According to Pitkänen, the need for cooperation arises from regional dynamics and similar challenges faced by its municipalities. There may be differences between the sub-regions, but they have a lot more in common. The region has a large number of SMEs, and major challenges for regional development include a shrinking population and the availability of skilled labor. 

Advocacy of the region is a natural part of the sub-regions’ cooperation. This also includes the planning and management of EU projects. 

–In order to receive funding, we need larger and more effective projects, which require a geographic area and project organization that extends beyond one sub-region. The upcoming challenge is that EU funding will decrease at some point, in which case we will need to focus on international project funding. The individual sub-regions are too small for that, Pitkänen emphasizes. 

In some cases, the sub-regions are inevitably in competition with each other. However, the benefits of cooperation are so significant that competition takes second fiddle. Development work is not a zero-sum game, but the strengths of the sub-regions complement each other, such as in energy matters. 

–The better we network both inside and outside the region, the stronger we will be. Today, the heart of a network is the one who has knowledge and who also shares it. Personally, I am very much in favor of cooperation and genuine discussion instead of buzzwords, Pitkänen says. 

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